Patriots' Love has no time to smell the roses

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Patriots' Love has no time to smell the roses

FOXBORO - The Patriots' standard set of captains doesn't figure to change much this season: Brady, Wilfork, Mayo, Slater, Mankins and McCourty.

But this preseason, when the Patriots rested a fleet of front-line players against the Eagles, they sent out a different set of players for the pregame coin toss. One of them was Kyle Love.

Pregame coin flip in the preseason with the varsity in shorts and t-shirts? Woot. Woot. Put that on the Hall of Fame bust.

Context, though. Context.

Love, undrafted in 2010, has arguably had the most impressive rise among the fleet of undrafted players that make up a large portion of the Patriots' roster.

He wedged himself into use in 2010, playing in nine games. In 2011, he started 13 and - along with Vince Wilfork - was the most potent inside force the team had.

The son of a retired Army colonel, Love's attention to detail and steady improvement have led to success and a new contract.

But he's paying no attention to the trappings of what he's done.

"I don't really try to get into it too much," Love answered when asked if he's reflected at all on his success. "I just do my job."

In a profession where the employees are constantly reminded, "You're either getting better or you're getting worse..." reflection is anathema to success.

"It doesn't stop," said Love. "It doesn't stop at all. Can't never get complacent, can't never get to the point where you feel relaxed. That's in any field, any job. There's always somebody behind you working hard who wants to do what you can."

NFL careers can be fleeting. By the time a player is conscious he hasn't stopped to smell the roses, the roses may be dead or dying.

Not much they can do about it. Simply a fact. For Love, though, the roses are just reaching bloom.

(See what I did there? It all just tied up real nice...)

Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

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Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Word of Branch's punishment stemming from a positive marijuana test became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, apparently. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster behind Branch if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. And he stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.